Chris BurtonThis article written by Chris Burton, Area 9 Treasurer

I know, I know. You’re a handbell director, so your focus is on the music: the phrasing, the technique, the notes. Then there’s the program, the concert theme, the logistics. Is it a full job right? So who has time to mess with social media during our busiest times of the year?

With a plan and a strategy in place, you do! Social media can be intimidating. Especially when platforms seem to change every year. However, an effectively planned and executed social media campaign can really bring your message in front of a new audience. Here are some tips and tricks to hopefully help you make sense of the morass of social marketing.

1. Know your platforms (and use them)

It seems that the big ones at the moment are still Facebook and Twitter. These two at a minimum should be in your arsenal. Then there are Instagram and Snapchat, both of which have fun and exciting ways to use them. A good one to also consider might be NextDoor, for its ability to hone in on the people who literally live in the vicinity (think of the benefits of posting your concerts on NextDoor).

If you are not familiar with them, here is a primer: Facebook and Twitter operate very similarly on the surface, you can write posts and share them, tag people and like things. Each interaction leads to more views, so you want to be sharing, tagging, and liking within your organization. Hashtags (#) can be used to add a “theme” to a posting that can then be linked to the same hashtag from other posts or tweets. So if everyone in your organization starts using the same Hashtag and it passes to a few fans, you just might be on the verge of going viral. Both platforms also allow you to boost posts for a fee that will reach audiences in your location or with various interests or demographics. Instagram (Insta) and Snapchat (Snap) are all about images and telling stories with pictures. These platforms are being used predominantly by younger audiences so if you are looking to grow your audience in that direction, they are worth getting to know. Users can send pictures with various filters and lenses to tell a story. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it’s probably worth Snapping.

Some things to keep in mind: Facebook’s user-base continues to age. In fact, few if anybody under the age of 25 even uses the platform any more. It would probably be a good idea to take some time, just a week or so during your break, to really research the ins and outs of each platform to decide if it’s a good fit for your group.

Ok, all of that is well and good, but now that’s a dozen new logins for me to remember and then I have to take time to post in all of them… this is sounding like a lot of work. Well, it could be, but there are tools out there to help you speed up the process.

2. Be Efficient

You are correct, very few of us directors have the time to really do this social media thing effectively and well. And for smaller ensembles or churches where you are the only one doing it, it can seem like a monumental task. This is why I like to use scheduling tools. There are many out there, but one of the most popular is called Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to log in to all of your social media and schedule posts to appear at various times. That’s right: you can write a months worth of posts in just a few minutes! Tools like this allow for your scheduled posts to have images and links and will appear as if you are posting all the time when in reality you are sitting at a poolside sipping a fruity drink because of all of the time you have saved. Scheduling is great because these social media platforms tend to place a higher emphasis on users that post things more often.

Email marketing platforms allow you to do the same thing. When you send out an email using a platform like MailChimp or ConstantContact, they often have built-in tools where your emails will auto-post to your social media sites whenever they are sent.

And if you want to get really fancy, you can take things to the next level. I am somewhat fond of a service called IFTTT (If this, then that). You can link it to all sorts of online services that will do something when another event occurs. So for instance, you could set up your personal page to automatically like your church’s handbell posts as soon as they are posted. You could set your phone to tweet photos from your rehearsals automatically. There are all sorts of ways to use tools like this.

3. Know Your Market

The online landscape is changing every day, and in many ways, it’s like the wild west. Social media platforms appear and disappear, are bought and sold, and just to complicate things more, they each have particular user demographics.

There are hundreds of social media platforms out there. There are the big ones like Facebook and Twitter, but there are all sorts of other platforms as well; in fact, I heard about one a few months ago that was designed exclusively for lawyers in the tri-state area. You don’t have to have them all: platforms like LinkedIn and NextDoor have particular purposes that you may or may not be able to leverage for your concerts.

Set them up and try them out. Try a variety of platforms, and be sure to let people know they exist: nothing is worse than opening a Twitter account and then just sitting and waiting for the “likes” to poor in. Mention it at your concerts, put links to your Facebook and Twitter pages in your emails. After a season or two, you’ll find pretty quickly which platforms take off for you and which don’t.

4. Interact

At the soul of social media is interaction. I know many people that say that it feels impersonal, but more and more this is the way that people connect with the world around them. If someone likes your post: thank them, like theirs as well, carry on a conversation. Not only does this help your posts rank in Facebook’s algorithms, but it also helps your followers know that you are a real person. Connect with other handbell groups that are similar to yours; share their concert information as well. After all, we are a small community, and we could definitely help each other out in this online wild west.

Whew! Ok, you can breathe again. If social media is not your strength, it can seem like a very daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several tools out there to help you make sense of it all, make your process efficient, and hopefully translate into some new concert-goers.